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Does your employer have to give you religious holidays off?

If you're one of the many Southern Californians whose religious holidays aren't among those typically recognized by employers, you may wonder if you have a legal right to take time off to celebrate your holidays and for other religious observances.

Private employers in California actually aren't required by law to give employees time off for any holiday (religious or not). However, because both federal and state law prohibit them from discriminating against employees based on their religion, companies have a responsibility to allow workers to take time off for religious observances unless they can demonstrate that giving them this time off would create an undue hardship.

California law states the following: "An employer shall explore any available reasonable alternative means of accommodating the religious belief or observance of an affected employee that conflicts with an adopted alternative workweek schedule…." That doesn't mean, however, that employees have to be paid for these days off.

It's in an employers' best interests not to prohibit employees from taking time off for religious observances. If they try to claim that allowing this time off -- particularly if it's unpaid -- would create an undue hardship, that can be debunked if they have a history of allowing other employees time off when requested. They may also create an impression -- accurate or not -- that they're discriminating against workers for their religious beliefs.

If you believe that your employer is unfairly denying you time off to practice your religion, it may be worthwhile to find out what your rights are under California law and what legal options you have. An experienced Long Beach employment law attorney is a good source of information.

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